A Guide to Testing Paint Colours

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Embarking on a home makeover journey can be exhilarating yet daunting, especially when choosing the right paint colours. The impact of colour on our living spaces cannot be overstated; it sets the mood, defines the ambiance, and reflects our personal style. That’s why testing paint colours through swatch boards and other ideas, before making the final decision is crucial. Whether you’re contemplating a fresh look for your walls or dreaming about revamping your cabinets, this guide will walk you through how to test paint effectively, ensuring your vision comes to life just as you imagine it.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Sleek kitchen range hood over modern stove, showcasing how using swatch board ideas helped determine the colour for the cabinets for a cohesive kitchen design.
Kitchen Cabinet latch, cabinet pulls, cabinet knobs, Mixer, Kettle, Art, Sconce, dried hydrangeas (similar), bread keeper (Sophie Conran, discontinued)

The Art of Testing Paint on Walls and Cabinets

Testing paint isn’t just about slapping a colour on a surface and hoping for the best. It’s a thoughtful process that, when done correctly, can save you from potential disappointment. Here’s how to embark on this colourful journey:

Start with Swatch Board Ideas

Creating swatch boards is a fabulous idea to begin. These portable colour testers allow you to view your potential paint colours in different lights and against various elements of your room. Paint a piece of cardstock or a small board with your chosen sample and move it around the space. This method is particularly handy for those pondering how to test paint on cabinets and walls alike.

Cozy bedroom featuring a cat lounging on the bed creating a peaceful ambiance.
Bed frame, rug, lumbar pillow, pillow, large pillows, lamp, throw blanket, art, marble dish, vase, flowers, pinch pleat curtains, curtain rod, nightstand or similar.

Live with the Colour

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it’s time to see how they interact with your daily life. Apply larger swatches of your selected colours directly onto the walls or cabinets you plan to paint. Observe them at different times of the day to see how changing light affects their appearance. This hands-on approach is a key step in understanding how to test paint on walls effectively, ensuring you’ll love your choice in all conditions.

Consider the Size of the Room

When selecting a paint colour for your home, it is important to consider the size of the room. For smaller rooms, it is best to opt for lighter shades of paint as they will help to make the room appear larger and brighter. On the other hand, darker shades of paint are better suited for larger rooms as they will help to create a cozy atmosphere. Additionally, you should also consider the furniture and décor in the room when selecting a paint colour. For example, if you have a lot of dark furniture in a small space, it would be best to opt for a lighter shade of paint in order to create balance.

Charming powder room with cream board and batten lower and vibrant floral wallpaper upper, demonstrating effective paint and wallpaper combinations. Learning how to test paint colours on the walls helped match the wallpaper and board and batten.
Looking for more information on this Powder room? Learn more here. Shop the space: wallpaper, art.

Understanding Light’s Impact

A common question is, “Does paint dry lighter or darker?” The answer isn’t straightforward, as the perceived colour of paint can change under different lighting conditions. Generally, paint appears lighter when wet and can darken up as it dries. However, the final look can vary significantly depending on your space’s natural and artificial light. This is why observing your test swatches over a few days is essential.

Learn more about my faourite off white paint colours. Click to learn more.

Testing Paint on Cabinets

When it comes to how to test paint on cabinets, consider the room’s lighting and the cabinet’s material. Cabinets often occupy a significant portion of visual space, so testing how the paint colour behaves under your kitchen or bathroom lighting is vital. Apply samples directly to the cabinets or use a large swatch board to gauge ideas of the colour throughout the day.

When choosing paint colours for my kitchen, I found the paint chip made the colour look darker than what it really looked like when on a larger surface. This is why it is so important to test it out. Learn more about my kitchen here.

Bright breakfast nook in kitchen with cream paint and floral art, highlighting swatch board ideas for creating inviting kitchen spaces.
Shop the Kitchen: Sconce, art, dining table (similar), floral throw pillow. Find out more kitchen details here.

The Art of the Colour Palette

One tip for choosing the right colours is from a four-colour paint chip for your project. This helps with identifying which shade will serve as the primary wall colour and which will accentuate details such as trim, cabinetry, or an accent wall, while ensuring they flow together well. This approach ensures a balanced distribution of colour, where one shade sets the foundation of the room’s atmosphere while the others bring depth and character through contrast and complement. By carefully considering the light and the room’s function, you can select a combination that harmonizes beautifully, creating a cohesive and inviting space that reflects your personal style and enhances the home’s overall aesthetic.

Don’t Rush the Process

Patience is key when testing paint colours. Rushing through this process can lead to outcomes you may not be happy with. Spend a few days, or even a week, observing your test areas in different environmental conditions. This deliberate pace lets you fully absorb how the colours behave and interact with the rest of your space.

Welcoming entryway with cream lower paneling and leaf wallpaper upper, showcasing how to test paint on walls for a harmonious home entrance.
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PRO TIP: Learn my favourite way to remember your paint colours, click to learn more.

Embrace the Journey

Remember, testing paint colours is not just a step in your renovation project; it’s an exciting part of the creative process. Each test swatch brings you closer to pinpointing the perfect palette for your home. So, indulge in exploring hues, experiment with light, and let your space tell its own colour story. With these tips on how to test paint on walls and cabinets, you’re well on your way to making informed decisions that will bring your interior dreams to vibrant life.

Testing paint colours may seem like a small step, but it holds the power to transform your space completely. Investing time in swatch board ideas and understanding the nuances of light and colour ensures that your chosen hues will delight and inspire for years to come. Happy painting!

Elegant cream kitchen demonstrating the impact of lighting on paint colors, perfect for those exploring how to test paint in well-lit spaces.
Kitchen details. Shop the kitchen: Cabinet latch, cabinet pulls, cabinet knobs, toaster, Mixer, dried hydrangeas (similar), bread keeper (Sophie Conran, discontinued)


What is the best way to test paint colours?

The best way to test paint colours is by applying sample swatches directly to the walls or creating swatch boards to view the colour in different lights and settings, ensuring you make an informed decision for your space.

Can I upload a picture of my house and try paint colours online?

Yes, many paint brands and home improvement websites offer tools where you can upload a picture of your house and experiment with different paint colours online, making it easier to visualize potential changes.

Is there an app to check paint colours?

Several apps are available that allow you to check paint colours by scanning a surface or browsing through a digital palette, helping you match or find new paint colours with ease.

How do you know if a paint colour looks good?

You’ll know a paint colour looks good if it complements the room’s lighting, furniture, and overall aesthetic and feels right to you after viewing it under various lighting conditions throughout the day.

Beautifully painted brick exterior in white, an example of does paint dry lighter or darker, ideal for those considering exterior paint projects.
Shop the patio: 4-piece patio set, rug, string lights, faux tree, cat house, throw pillow, hanging baskets, hooks, plant wall mount, Learn more here.

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